WASHINGTON (AP) — The first alarms sounded in early January that the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China would ignite a global pandemic.

But the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment.

Purchasing contracts reviewed by The Associated Press show that federal agencies waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers.

Now, the national stockpile is nearly drained just as the number of infected patients needing critical care is surging.

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